These fierce healthcare startups are adding imaginative new dimensions in healthcare
By Anne-Frances Hutchinson
Today’s healthcare startup scene is brimming with spellbinding talent, revolutionary ideas, and bold investors coming together to improve medical and diagnostic outcomes, increase access to treatment and services, and rethink the way we receive and experience care. From molecular diagnostics and gamification to a digital formulary and direct-to-consumer solutions for a new generation of healthcare consumers, these ingenious startups are well worth following.
Founder: Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD
Akili Interactive blends state-of-the-art neuroscience with video game technology to develop digital medicines for persons living with cognitive impairment. Developers of the world’s first and only prescription-only treatment delivered through a video game, Akili recently received both FDA-clearance and CE-Mark certification for their EndeavorRx™ digital therapeutic software for the treatment of attention and inhibitory control deficits in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Multiple clinical studies of over 600 children diagnosed with ADHD demonstrated that EndeavorRx improved objective measures of attention, and that after four weeks of treatment, one third of the children studied “no longer had a measurable attention deficit on at least one measure of objective attention.” The treatment is built on the proprietary Akili Selective Stimulus Management engine, which the company says “presents specific sensory stimuli and simultaneous motor challenges designed to target and activate the neural systems that play a key role in attention function while using adaptive algorithms to personalize the treatment experience for each individual patient.”
Founders: Gail Port, Jacqueline Laver
Implantable medical devices are saving more lives than ever, and with their robust growth comes a startling increase in recalls and the number of adverse events. Class III implants that support or sustain life, such as pacemakers, represent the greatest risk of costly and often life-threatening consequences, especially in patients with multiple comorbidities or who are taking multiple medications. Private payers, delivery networks, and healthcare organizations lose billions of dollars each year in revision surgeries.
E-Health Analytics leverages machine learning to predict the effectiveness of medical devices in high risk patients before implantation. Formulary Predict™ is the first commercially-available formulary for medical devices. The subscription-based platform gives healthcare payers and providers the ability to assess the clinical appropriateness, risk, and cost of medical devices.
Founder: AG Breitenstein, MPH, JD
The first of its kind Folx Health digital health services platform is designed to remove barriers that keep members of the LGBTQ community from getting truly patient-centered healthcare. Created exclusively to serve the needs of Queer patients, the 100% virtual platform connects patients with providers, and will offer in-home delivery of medications and lab testing services. When the platform launches in winter 2020-21, Folx will hone in on four basic areas: PrEp, STI testing, hormones, and fertility testing.
Founder AG Breitenstein writes, “We are enlisting the best Queer practitioners in the country to help us build safe and effective protocols that speak our language, respect our bodies, and regard our lives as the defining paradigm. Once we get started, we plan to add more and more to our menu of services until we are able to say that every Queer person in America can live, love, and be fully themselves.” To date, Folx has raised $4.4 million in funding.
Founder: Jill Angelo
This digital health clinic is specifically designed for women in menopause, offering telehealth services, education, and community for patients in need of care for hormone-driven symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and changes in libido. They have built the largest data set about women in menopause of any company in the world, have a practitioner network of 200 physicians and more than 27,000 monthly users.
According to the company’s VP of Technology, Sarah Ramsay MPH, “We’ve effectively built a new kind of EMR for GenX women who want access to their data, appointment follow-ups, and recommendations. Our team of 25 OB/GYNs and 3 Registered Dietitians need a flexible way for personalizing care options—prescriptions, over-the-counter supplements, education, and community resources for their patients. The new Gennev accomplishes both.” Gennev’s telehealth offering is available in 49 states and their subscription HealthFix Coaching Membership is available in 50. Their 2019 seed round raised $4.5 million in funding.
Founder and CEO: Daphne Koller
Established and led by Coursera founder Daphne Koller, Insitro is pioneering data-driven drug discovery and development through a unique integration of biology and machine learning. “The company is applying state-of-the-art technologies from bioengineering to create massive data sets that enable the power of modern machine learning methods to be brought to bear on key bottlenecks in pharmaceutical R&D. The resulting predictive models are used to accelerate target selection, to design and develop effective therapeutics, and to inform clinical strategy.”
According to Koller, “We have spent the last two years advancing several critical components of our business. First, we have assembled a world class team of computational scientists and engineers, biologists and translational scientists, drug developers and company builders, all uniquely working in true partnership. Second, we have built a powerful platform for producing disease-relevant biological data at scale. Finally, we have made important scientific progress on the development of ML-driven disease models that can predict human clinical outcomes and on the application of these models to our first two therapeutic areas in liver and CNS disease.” Three rounds of funding have yielded $143 million in venture capital to date.
Chief Executive Officer, President and Director: Rahul Dhanda
Making molecular diagnostics better, faster and more affordable is the mission of Sherlock Biosciences. According to the company, they are developing applications of SHERLOCK™, a CRISPR-based method to detect and quantify specific genetic sequences, and INSPECTR, a synthetic biology-based molecular diagnostics platform that is instrument-free. SHERLOCK and INSPECTR can be used in virtually any setting without complex instrumentation, opening up a wide range of potential applications in areas including precision oncology, infection identification, food safety, at-home tests, and disease detection in the field.”
In May 2020, the company received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Sherlock™ CRISPR SARS-CoV-2 kit, the first FDA-authorized use of CRISPR technology. To date they have raised $56 million in funding.
Blockchain technology powers this interactive telehealth platform designed to meet the healthcare needs of millennial women. Co-founder Veronica Berry suffered from unresolved symptoms that had been diagnosed as menstrual cramps. A pharmaceutical sales rep, Berry felt there was something else causing her symptoms; after multiple medical consults and an eight-week wait to get her medical records transferred from another state, she was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer. The ordeal prompted her to create TruDiary, a personalized medical chart based on a plethora of considerations, including medical records and past procedures, family medical history, symptoms, behaviors, and other indications. Data is stored on a HIPAA-compliant, secure private blockchain.
TruDiary’s data insights give providers a true snapshot of a patient’s current condition to provide a more comprehensive clinical visit and user experience. Their initial focus is on women with high-risk pregnancies, particularly those in rural and underserved areas.
The desire to improve domestic drug development and healthcare delivery is creating thrilling new inroads in every conceivable discipline. These seven superstars represent a small fraction of the talent, drive, and discipline that is making patient care more specialized, immediate, and effective for patients, and more cost effective for health care systems, providers, and insurers. We’re confident there are a couple of unicorns in this dynamic, driven group, too. Stay tuned.